resident with iPadThe typical nursing home patient is no longer somebody’s grandmother; many people in their 40s and 50s live in nursing homes alongside those in their later years. Because of the paradigm shift in health care, programming has taken a dramatic turn. Staff members are learning to adjust and create new ways to deliver care and activities to this new diverse population.
The therapeutic recreation department at TownHouse Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing in Uniondale, N.Y., has channeled many community resources, along with technology, to make its programs continue to grow and improve. 
The staff ensure that they keep up with the latest and greatest information, arming themselves with all the education that they can to deliver the best programming to residents.

Computer Club Opens Door

One of the center’s latest recreational programs is the Computer Club, which started as a computer-based instructional group. TownHouse provided computers with Internet access in resident areas for independent leisure.

After the growing success of the club, the recreation director brought in an iPad for residents to experiment with. The residents responded enthusiastically, and the iPad seemed to open up a whole new world for them. The iPad was easily navigable and offered seemingly endless possibilities. Residents retrieved information, viewed photos from all over the world, listened to music, and watched videos.

Amidst all the excitement, many residents had their families purchase iPads for them. The iPads have given these patients an incredible amount of freedom and pleasure as they can pursue leisure at their own pace on a daily basis.

They surf the Web, e-mail, play games, and talk to family members through the video telephone technology called FaceTime. In addition, several of the residents’ personal lives were significantly enriched as a result of using the iPad.

Making Connections

Tony, a veteran of World War II, was able to reconnect with an old army buddy. They hadn’t been in touch since the war.

Through the use and guidance of the Computer Club, Tony was able to do a search and locate his friend, who now lives in London. After connecting, they have e-mailed back and forth a number of times and exchanged pictures as well.

This reconnection was a great source of excitement and allowed Tony to have a social experience outside the normal day-to-day life most residents have while living in a home.

Without the Computer Club and the technology of today, this relationship would never have been reconnected. Tony felt that the reconnection to his past helped him to remember details of his time during the war that he had forgotten.

Tony was able to share with his family things that they never knew about his time overseas.

A Lifeline For Mary

Another individual, Mary, has been dramatically affected by this technology as well. Mary, who has been elected president of the Computer Club, does not let her iPad leave her side. She is a stroke patient with a left-side hemiparesis, who utilizes an electric wheelchair and finds the iPad simple to use.

When Mary wants to take a picture, she needs only seconds to snap away on her iPad and ends up with 15 or so shots. Mary is also on Facebook, plays Words With Friends, listens to music, e-mails, and uses FaceTime and just about every other feature on the iPad with the quick swipe or tap of a finger. She actually calls the iPad her “lifeline,” and it’s easy to see why. Mary has even learned how to purchase gift certificates, which she uses to shop online.

She has used the iPad to impact on a larger scale as well. Mary surfed the Web and found a way of connecting with soldiers in Iraq. She came to the Computer Club meeting with an inspiring idea: She wanted to help in some way.

“We are not dead yet, let’s do something and make our lives worthwhile. Just because we are in a nursing home doesn’t mean we have to stop contributing,” she says. Other residents were equally excited at the idea of connecting and “doing something” to make a difference in the world.

Helping Residents Help Others

The Internet and iPad helped residents see that living in a nursing home does not mean that you are “stuck” inside the walls of the home.

Thanks to Mary’s idea and technology, the residents have successfully adopted five soldiers and one canine unit overseas. They have shipped nine packages—and counting—to soldiers and have adopted dogs and their handlers.

Through the club, the residents also located soldiers needing pen pals and now correspond with them on a regular basis.

Something as simple as purchasing a computer can open up a whole new world for the residents. The Computer Club has successfully increased the quality of life for its members, as well as allowed others to
try things that they never thought possible.

TownHouse Center has truly grasped the idea of empowerment and quality of life. Stay tuned as they continue to bring new ideas and incredible programs to their residents.
Nicole C. Francis, director of therapeutic recreation at TownHouse Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing, holds a master’s degree in public administration. Francis, who has worked in the health care industry for more than 15 years, will sit for her nursing home administrator’s license this year.